By JOHN GORALSKI
Snow guns have already laid a thin blanket of white crystals along some of the slopes of Mount Southington, and even the recent rains couldn’t beat back their progress. On Sunday, Dec. 7, the local resort opened its gates to winter hopefuls.
Another season is underway at Southington’s winter resort.
“I’m absolutely excited,” said the resort’s new general manager Jay Dougherty. “We’re always a little nervous at this time of year, but that’s to be expected.”
Dougherty said that he’s excited to leave his stamp on the local mountain, and his crews have been working hard for months to get ready for opening day. They’ve rolled out eight more giant snow guns to join the dozens of giant blowers that dot the main hills. They’ve sprinkled a host of smaller guns around the course to provide better coverage on the smaller hills and trails.
Falling temperatures gave them a good head start on the season, and the early opening could be a sign that this will be a banner year at the local resort. For Dougherty and his workers, it has been a labor of love.
“I grew up here. This is where I spent most of my time…during the winter, for sure,” he said. “This is a dream come true.”
The State of Connecticut has adopted new rules and regulations about ski lifts and safety equipment, but Dougherty said that Mount Southington is already ahead of the curve. Connecticut is just catching up with the industry, and the local resort has always been one step ahead.
“We just keep up with the national regulations so that we’re always ready whenever Connecticut improves their regulations,” he said, and workers have already posted the new signage for skiers about ski lift safety restraints and instructions for raising and lowering those restraints. “The other portion that changed had to do with padding and fencing on the trails, but we’ve always done that. We’ve always padded and fenced all of our snow making and power equipment, so we were ready.”
That gave Dougherty’s workers more time to focus on facility improvements.
The iconic Red Barn was given a facelift on the second floor where channel pine walls are designed to give a more lodge-like feel to its patrons. The ski shop has been stocked with even more snow boards for use on the trails and the terrain park, and the ski staff has been hard at work, rolling out new classes for beginner and intermediate skiers.
The ‘Wild Things’ youth program, a multi-week program designed for kids aged 6-12, has been expanded with a Wild Teens program for snowboarders aged 13-15. The Little Tykes Ski Club, for second and third graders, has been expanded with the addition of the Tiny Tykes Ski Club, a three-week program that focuses on first-time skiers in kindergarten and first grade.
“Our ‘Learn-to-Ski’ program has top-notch staff, and we are continuing to broaden our base and introduce more people to the sport of skiing,” said Dougherty. “Tiny Tikes is a real first-timers program for young children. They stay on the carpet lift, while Little Tykes is over in our beginner area. Wild Things and Wild Teens are centered around the needs of more advanced skiers. They might still be looking for more advanced lessons, but they might not want to dedicate themselves to our racing program’s intense schedule. We created these different programs for people looking for those different options.”
A wide range of season passes are still available with coupons and deals available on-line at www.mountsouthington.com. Daily lift ticket prices are available with a variety of single day passes available from $15-$46.
“We also started a ‘Free Ride’ team,” Dougherty said. “It’s a division of our racing program, but it’s designed for skiers that don’t necessarily want to race in gates but still want to become better all-around skiers for the moguls and our terrain park.”
Early season hours are subject to change, but updates are posted on the web site and Facebook page. Conditions are updated daily.